Fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine

Kiev: Fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatist militia members resurged Sunday in eastern Ukraine, where government forces tried to close their cordons around the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, the main secessionist bastions.

The most intense clashes are taking place near Lugansk, the capital of the same-named region that — along with neighbouring Donetsk, also the capital of a region of the same name — proclaimed itself an independent people’s republic, Efe news agency reported.

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The seriousness of the situation led Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to decline the invitation extended by his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff to attend the World Cup closing ceremony at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium Sunday.

“Ukrainian forces attacked the city from the town of Alexandrovsk. It is not simply shootouts. All this is occurring with the support of 50 armoured cars and two attack aircraft,” Efe cited Interfax news agency as quoting militia spokesman.

The government troops used artillery to bombard the suburbs of Donetsk and concentrated forces on the city’s outskirts, pro-Russian groups said.

The government has announced that it intends to besiege Donetsk and Lugansk with the aim of forcing the separatist militias to lay down their arms.